In the days following IAVA’s March 2018 Storm The Hill advocating for our “Big Six” 2018 priorities, Congress averted a government shutdown and FINALLY funded the government for this year and included a number of provisions IAVA had advocated for. The provisions included reforms and increases in VA funding, improvements in care for women vets, mental health and suicide prevention program improvements, steps forward on burn pits, and others. MORE:
- Provides significant funds to implement the IAVA-led Clay Hunt SAV Act and improve mental health/suicide prevention programs, including the Veterans Crisis Line, assess overmedication of veterans, address PTSD, increase access for those with other-than-honorable discharges, and other provisions.
- Funds the IAVA-led #SheWhoBorneTheBattle campaign and Deborah Sampson Act initiatives to improve services for women veterans, including research on and acquisition of prosthetics for female veterans, increase funds for gender-specific healthcare, increase female veterans’ access and use of VA benefits and services, improved access for mental health services, and increases in funds for supportive services for low income veterans and families to address homelessness. The VA now must also ensure VA facilities can meet the needs of female vets and create a master plan to address those facilities that are below standard. Great success after fighting for more than a year!
- Increases funds and staffing to improve the disability claims process and the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program, as part of VA reform.
- Implements recommendations in a National Academies assessment to improve the VA Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. It also ensures the VA funds research for toxic exposures, which includes burn pits. Watch for more on burn pits soon!
- Prohibits the Department of Justice from preventing implementation of state cannabis laws, including for medical purposes. A great start for empowering vets who want to utilize medical cannabis.
- Includes the IAVA-backed Physician Assistant Employment and Education Act to bring former military medics and corpsmen to rural VA facilities to work as Physician Assistants in exchange for tuition assistance. Another win for our ardent defense of military and veteran education benefits.
Although we saw many victories for our Big Six priorities, we were disappointed that legislation backed by IAVA and other VSOs that would consolidate and reform VA community care programs and extend the Caregivers program to pre-9/11 veterans was not included in the final omnibus after politics got in the way. We will keep pushing in the months ahead. All that and we’re still not resting! IAVA is back at it strong on Capitol Hill and in the media pushing for new, stronger improvements in these very same areas. Stay tuned to us on IAVA’s social media platforms!